General Electric Co. (NYSE: GE) shares added about 1.7% last week, more than all of it on Friday when the stock rose by 2.5%. The jump cut the stock’s year-to-date loss by more than a point to 35.2% to maintain GE’s position as the worst performing equity on the Dow Jones Industrial Average index.
This is GE’s seventeenth consecutive week as the Dow’s worst performer. The company still has a big lead over the second worst stock, Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ), down 15.9% for the year, and third-worst International Business Machines Corp. (NYSE: IBM), now down 10.1%. Only 6 of the 30 Dow stocks have traded down so far this year.
There were a couple of reasons that GE stock defied Friday’s overall down day for the markets. First, Monday is the company’s investor day and CEO John Flannery has promised to reveal his vision and strategy going forward.
Second, Reuters reported Friday afternoon the GE had already begun trimming software division staff in San Ramon, California. Reuters cited sources who say layoffs have already begun at the company’s new Boston headquarters.
Firing people always boosts investors’ and traders’ spirits, so the share price gain is no surprise. But at least half of the gain can be set down to Flannery’s Monday morning announcement. The good news for investors is that GE is very likely to announce more firings.
The bad news is that the company may have to cut its annual dividend of $0.96 per share. Flannery has already said he plans to shed more than $20 billion in assets, so unless GE has some magic pixie dust to increase revenues and profits with a slimmed down business, the company may have no choice but to slice off a chunk of the 4.5% dividend yield.
The only question is when. Flannery may decide to take the medicine on Monday, sink the stock price even more, and rely on the power of a new narrative for the 125 year-old firm to rebuild the share price. Otherwise, the uncertainty will continue to weigh on the share price. Tune in Monday morning at 9 a.m. ET.
GE’s shares closed up 2.5% Friday at $20.49 in a 52-week range of $19.63 to $32.38. The consensus 12-month price target on the stock is $25.40, down 33 cents from last week’s target. The price target range remains $17 to $36.